Security implications of new Facebook email service - Sophos FAQ guide

November 16, 2010 Sophos Press Release

Facebook has announced its new email service which brings together Facebook messages, instant messaging chat and SMS messages in one place. Following this news, Sophos has produced an FAQ guide to help users understand the implications for security before they sign up:

"Before signing up, users need to realise that these new features increase the attack surface on the Facebook platform, and make personal accounts all the more alluring for cybercriminals to break into," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Facebook accounts will now be linked with many more people in the users' social circles - opening up new opportunities for identity fraudsters to launch attacks."

Sophos notes that cybercriminals are compromising the accounts of Facebook users, and using their accounts to spread spam messages. Spam sent via social networks can be more effective than traditional email spam, as users are more likely to open and trust a message which appears to have been sent by someone they know - one of their Facebook friends.

"Users also need to be aware that Facebook will be storing a complete archive of all of their communications with one person - this raises concerns as to how this data could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands," continued Cluley. "With this in mind, it will be critical for Facebook to implement more effective filtering mechanisms to prevent fraudsters from manipulating Facebook users into falling victim to new spams, scams and phishing attacks."

Sophos's verdict on the new system? Users will need to take greater care of the security of their Facebook account than ever before. Keeping security up-to-date on computers, policing which applications link with their Facebook profile, and choosing sensible, unique, hard-to-crack passwords will be essential.

More information can be found on Sophos's Naked Security blog.